Fear, Reflection, and Good News

I’ve been debating what , or if, to write in this blog. Is it something that should remain in the family? Or is it something that I should share, as I am not the only person that has experienced this. My best friend in the entire world, the lovely Megan, went through a similar thing a few years back, and that hit pretty close to home because I was fairly close to her mother while Megan and I were in high school together, though the impact of her news didn’t hit me nearly as hard due to distance. Luckily, dear Peg is doing great and is patiently awaiting the birth of her latest granddaughter, with Megan due to deliver little Maggie within a few weeks.

Anyway, the past two weeks have been less than fun for me. It started a couple weeks ago with “biopsy” and “cancer” coming out of my mother’s mouth and a visit to doctor to discuss options and whatnot… but I’m getting a little ahead of myself. We’ll rewind the story a couple of weeks before we get to that point, or maybe even a little further.

Among the numerous reasons I moved home in January was because my parents are getting older. Heck, I still have a as-yet-started-book that will be written eventually. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my parents are a bit older than other folks my age. My dad turns the big 7-0 this year, with my mom not too far behind. The aforementioned book is a planned gift for their 50th wedding anniversary in 2014. Long story short… they’re getting older. I figured I I could move home and start helping out with stuff around the house (not that they’re enfeebled), at least until I got a bit settled on my new life back in Utah. One of the joys of growing old, as I’m sure many know, is all the medical fun things that start to happen as you get older.

For the past couple of years, maybe just the last year, my father had been getting regular blood tests after one showed elevated levels of something or another. While monitoring these levels over the past year, nothing was really out of sorts for a man of his age until a recent test showed elevated levels of PSA, or Prostate-Specific Antigen. This led to a biopsy of his prostate.

To those that don’t know my parents, they are less than forthcoming with all sorts of different types of information. Despite living here, I didn’t know that my father had even had a biopsy until my mother let me know as I was walking out the door a couple of weeks ago. I was on my way to make sure my sister didn’t get murdered by potential renters at her Clinton house, and my mom told me that “Dad’s biopsy came back as positive for cancer.” Wait… what? Biopsy? Cancer? I asked her if she wanted me to tell my sister, and she said not to right now, mostly because she is currently pregnant. The entire drive to Clinton and the way back I wanted to tell her, but since I didn’t really know what was going on yet, I didn’t.

When I got home, I got the entire story from my dad, including the parts about the mystery biopsy and all the blood tests.  There really was no prognosis at that point, other than one of the 12 samples had shown some cancer cells and whatnot. The parents were told to expect a call to schedule the follow-up with the doctor sometime… and ended up waiting for a week because the guy was on vacation. It was an excruciating wait, and I spent some of the time trying to come to terms with it all, like if we would have to figure out how to exist without our father in the near future. After dinner on Mother’s Day, we talked a bit about things, like wills and whatnot, and I like to think my parents have made all the proper preparations, but it still sucks to think about. I wondered why my parents just wouldn’t call someone, but it also made me think that it wasn’t super serious. When they finally called this Monday, Pops was scheduled for the first available appointment.

Which brings us to yesterday morning. I asked if I could come along with my parents, partially to get the story right from the horse’s mouth so to speak, but also because I wanted to be able to communicate to the four siblings that still talk to me what the prognosis was. I didn’t sleep that well Thursday night, dreading horrible news that would end with me strangling the doctor for going on vacation while my father was dying of cancer.

Anyway, we went up to the University of Utah Medical Center to meet with the doctor. I could tell Mom was having a rough time with it, looking to be on the verge of tears. The mood was lightened with the “sex” questionnaire my dad had to answer, and luckily the doctor didn’t take to long  to come in and talk to dad. Mom liked him because he had curly hair; I thought he looked like he was 25. It might just be because skinny folks look much younger. But I digress.

The good news, if there can ever be good news pulled from a cancer diagnosis, is that Dad’s cancer is very mild. Prostate cancer is typically a very slow-growing cancer anyway, and unless he has a gigantic tumor growing on the far side of his prostate, he should ultimately be alright. In fact, this was one instance that being an old dude helps him out. As long as a follow-up biopsy in six weeks doesn’t show anything dramatically different, they will just keep an eye on things over the next two years with regular checkups and blood tests. If anything changes in the meantime, they’ll start treatment that has an 85-90% chance of taking care of business with minimal side effects. And if he manages to make it to 75, they figure something else will kill him before the prostate cancer, so they don’t want to put him in treatment after that point.

All in all, it was probably as good as a prognosis as you can get from talking to a doctor about cancer. When I first heard cancer from my mom a few weeks ago, I thought it was going to be lung cancer, since my dad has smoked off and  on for almost 50 years. I guess it’s better to have prostate cancer in that situation, even if it means that I have a higher risk for it and need to get regular prostate checks ten years earlier than normal folks, although I did almost throttle my father when he admitted to never having a colonoscopy despite his advanced age. Time to start taking better care of yourself, Dad. But I love you regardless.

Hopefully he can get through the next couple years, or more, without the cancer going super crazy. Hopefully both my parents live for a long time, if only because it would be nice for them to meet the children that I know I’ll have some day. I guess time will tell.

Until next time…

5 thoughts on “Fear, Reflection, and Good News

  1. Whew! While I know any cancer is bad news, it sounds like your pop is in pretty good shape where his diagnosis is. That must come as the greatest relief. I’m only sorry it took so long for the news to come. That period of not knowing is absolutely THE worst. The more answers you have, the easier some of it is to stomach.

    I’ve really struggled with the idea of my folks getting older and, as a result, more vulnerable. The best thing I can think to do is spend more time with them learning about their lives and cherishing them as friends, which is exactly what you’re doing by living with your folks.

    Anyhoo, SO glad things are okay in this instance. Make sure your pop keeps an eye on things. He has a good 20+ years in him after all.

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